Yvonne Kason answers the question:
What is the nicest thing a non-family member has ever done for you?
Well, the nicest thing non-family members — this was actually more than one person — every did for me happened shortly after my head injury in 2003. It was a little bit more than a year later. I had to have some major abdominal surgery, and because I was still so weak and my body was so sensitive after my traumatic brain injury that I had, I reacted very badly to the anesthetic drugs and to the painkillers.
So when I was discharged from hospital, I was incredibly weak. I was so weak that I had to have home care services provided. The hospital organized that. So I had a healthcare worker coming in and helping me with personal care, like getting out of bed and getting dressed and bathing in the morning. And I had physiotherapy and occupational therapy coming in the house and they put up support bars and grab bars and things like that.
But I'm a mom, right? I had a son living at home. He was a young teenager at the time. And even though I was getting dressed and I was physically getting in and out of my bed with this assistance, it was only about an hour a day. I was having a tremendous amount of difficulty with making meals, just cooking for myself. I was so weak and I was so tired and I just didn't have the strength or the stamina to cook.
And so one of my friends, actually a doctor who I knew through the Spirituality in Health-Care network, she called me, she'd seen me in the hospital. Her name is Dr. Mary Vachon. She said to me, "Gee, Yvonne, it sounds like you need a care circle." I'd never even heard of a care circle. She works in palliative care a lot with cancer patients, and she said, "Yes, this happens a lot with cancer patients, sometimes after surgery, that you need a care circle to look after you till you get your strength back." I was so tired and so exhausted. I said, "Well, yes, I suppose I do. But I don't even have the closest idea how I would even organize a care circle to help look after me." And Mary said, "Don't worry, I'll look after it."
So Mary, who's very busy practicing as a psychotherapist, full-time working, called a couple of other friends that I knew, all people who were professionals who were working… She called Maria Thornton, who's a nurse who was also practicing, she called Jeanette McCullough, who was also a nurse who was also practicing. She called a couple of my other doctor friends and she just told them, "Yvonne needs us right now. Let's form a care circle."
So she got these doctors, and I can't believe it because they're all busy professional people, to look at their various schedules and coordinate between the bunch of them how they could provide a care circle for me. And I have named this group of people my army of angels because they really were an answer to prayer, my army of angels. I just did not know how I was going to cook a meal or look after my son when I was in such a weakened state.
And so what happened is they took turns cooking home-cooked meals for me. I have a number of food allergies and food sensitivities, so I had to give them my list of what I can eat and what I can't eat. But they cooked beautiful meals for me, usually bringing enough for about four days each time whoever it was came over. And my son was living at home. My son has a very different diet from me. My son likes to eat meat, I'm not a big meat eater. And so they cooked in addition to meals for me, because they knew that my son was here at home too, they cooked meals that my son would want to eat. Like spaghetti with meat sauce and stuff like that.
So they would take turns. They made a schedule amongst themselves that they would come over and they would be bringing me and my son food for several days. So I didn't have to worry about cooking meals while I was in this incredibly weakened state after my surgery. And then Mary said to me — the two Marys actually, who headed it up — they said, "Well Yvonne, don't you have to go to doctors’ appointments and don't you have to go to your rehab?" because I was still in intensive neuro rehab after my head injury.
I write about this all in my book, Touched by the Light — my head injury and the near-death experience I had afterwards. But this particular incident, I was still in the intensive neuro rehab stage and yes, I was supposed to be going at least twice a week for neuro rehab and it was at a downtown hospital and it was at least an hour drive each direction, depending on traffic. And I just didn't have the stamina; I couldn't possibly drive that distance.
So they said, "Oh, we're going to organize as part of your care circle. We're going to get everybody's schedules, coordinate us, give us your list of appointments, tell us what day and what time, and we will drive you to your appointments." And then I would be at the appointment for an hour or an hour and a half and then they said, "And then we will meet you afterwards. One of us in your care circle will meet you and we will drive you home."
This was phenomenal. I couldn't believe this. It just touched my heart. This army of angels... these are people that are very, very busy working full-time in their professional lives that found the time somehow between them to coordinate, and to look after me when I was in my greatest time of need. And you know, when I offered to give some money to pay for the food, and when I offered to give some money to pay for the gas, everybody said no. They said, "Yvonne, your whole life, you've always looked after people. Now it's your turn to be looked after for a while." So this was so loving and generous and this group of people, my army of angels, I feel is outstanding in terms of what they did for me at my time of very greatest physical need.
Oh, here's a couple more things I'd like to mention about my army of angels. It was even bigger than that and they did more than that. One day I had my son drive me to the local grocery store just to pick up some fresh milk. I was very, very weak. I couldn't drive the car, I had trouble walking, I was holding onto the buggy for support. And the manager of the grocery store, he knew me because I used to shop there regularly, he came over to me and he said, "Yvonne, are you all right? You look like you're not feeling that well."
And so I explained to him that I was recovering from surgery and I was really feeling quite weak. And he said, "Well, Yvonne, you should have told me. I'll deliver groceries for you." He gave me his private phone number and said, "You just phone me. When you're finished with your grocery shopping today, you get your son to drive you home. But I will deliver you groceries until you feel strong enough to come in here." And this was not something that I even knew was a service they provided, and I think it officially was not a service they provided back in those years. But he did it as a personal friend to me. So I guess the spirit of the army of angels expanded to the manager of the grocery store in my neighborhood.
And the other thing that my army of angels did that I wanted to mention, which was so beautiful, is they also made a schedule for phoning me so that I would not feel isolated. They realized that since I was housebound and not getting out and not getting any contact with people, that I might get lonely.
So they made a schedule, and I couldn't believe this... I wondered, Why am I getting so many phone calls? But they made a schedule where at least one of them in this group, the army of angels, it was their assignment that they were supposed to call me. So they wanted to make sure that somebody called me every single day because someone didn't deliver food every single day or drive me every single day.
And this continued for several months, even after I got strong enough to start driving myself to medical appointments again, and strong enough to start doing my own grocery shopping and cooking. My dear friends in this army of angels still continued to call me every day, and then it gradually tapered down to a few times a week. And then I would say almost for a year, they agreed among themselves that at least once a week they would call me so that I would not feel isolated. So I think the love demonstrated by this army of angels is just incredible and I am grateful to them eternally. I bless them and I'm grateful for them for being there for me at my time of need.
Yvonne Kason is a retired family physician and transpersonal MD-psychotherapist, previously on faculty at the University of Toronto. Her medical specialty was the research and counseling of patients who had diverse types of Spiritually Transformative Experiences (STEs), a phrase she coined that is now used widely by many professionals in the field.
Yvonne was the first Canadian medical doctor to specialize her practice on near-death experiences (NDEs) and other STEs. She was a founding member of the Kundalini Research Network; the Canadian coordinator of the Spiritual Emergence Network; the founder of the Spiritual Emergence Research and Referral Clinic; and the co-founder of the Spirituality in Health-Care Network.
She is currently a board member of IANDS (International Association for Near Death Studies), and is currently a member — and was the 2018 Keynote speaker for — ACISTE (American Center for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experience).
She’s published five books, including her brand-new one, Touched by the Light: Exploring Spiritually Transformative Experiences.
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This article appears in: 2019 Catalyst, Issue 18: Qigong Global Summit and International Day of Peace Weekend